Bellingham can cap sublime Madrid start in first Clasico

Bellingham can cap sublime Madrid start in first Clasico

© AFP 2022
October 26, 2023 at 1:15 AM
Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham has hit the ground running in Spain and now faces his first Clasico against Barcelona
Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham has hit the ground running in Spain and now faces his first Clasico against Barcelona. Photo: Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP
Source: AFP

Jude Bellingham is loving life at Real Madrid, even before getting the chance to play in the club football's biggest match, the Clasico.

The England international will lead Los Blancos into battle at Barcelona's temporary Olympic Stadium home on the Montjuic hill on Saturday, having become Carlo Ancelotti's key player within three months.

Bellingham has begun the season in extraordinary form, with 11 goals in 12 games for the club across all competitions.

It is a spectacular start that nobody could have envisaged, even the Madrid coach himself, despite deploying Bellingham in a more attacking number 10 role. His goals are making up for the departure of Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema and the failure to sign Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain.

"This is the club I want to be at for the next 10 to 15 years of my life, I am loving it," Bellingham told reporters while on international duty last week.

Madrid fans have fallen head over heels in love with Bellingham, but they are notoriously fickle. Nobody has escaped the Santiago Bernabeu's whistles forever, including all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.

Bellingham's remarkable start could be undermined if the Liga leaders disappoint their supporters in Catalonia at the weekend.

The 20-year-old midfielder was on-target again with a decisive strike in the 2-1 win at Braga on Tuesday night which helped Madrid maintain their perfect start in the Champions League.

Bellingham was taken off late in the game with thigh discomfort but Ancelotti said it was nothing to worry about.

"He's good," said Ancelotti. "Nothing important, he'll recover, he'll be there on Saturday."

Unlike previous big money imports, Gareth Bale, whom fans grew to dislike despite his success because of a disconnect, and Eden Hazard, whom they rarely saw fit, there has been an instant connection between Bellingham and the club's supporters.

Bellingham said his legs were trembling when he first heard Madrid fans serenade him with the chorus of Beatles song 'Hey Jude', but his performances have been steadily impressive.

The former Birmingham City and Borussia Dortmund player combines technical skill and grace with a physicality which makes him tough for any defence to quell.

'10 times better'

Bellingham shone for Dortmund as they took the Bundesliga title race to the wire last season and has stepped up several levels since, surrounded by Champions League winning players who accentuate his already-evident quality.

"I'm 10 times better than I was last season ... I'm learning every day," said Bellingham in August.

"I'm like a sponge, taking in everything my teammates tell me. That's why I've started the season so well."

While some players would be overawed by the challenge of representing arguably the biggest club in world football, Bellingham has taken to it like a duck to water.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise after his mature performances for England at the Qatar World Cup last year while still a teenager.

Barcelona will have to decide whether they fear Bellingham or Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior more, when deciding how to line up in the Clasico.

The Catalans' coach Xavi Hernandez has often deployed centre-back Ronald Araujo on the right of the defence to try and shackle Vinicius, but the Uruguayan might also be his team's best bet to keep Bellingham at bay -- something few teams have managed this season.

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© AFP 2022 photo
© AFP 2022